MThrough Donnie Darko, a young creative English teacher played by Drew Barrymore repeats the old maxim – recycled over the years by linguists, academics and writers, including JRR Tolkien – that the simple and mundane phrase “carries cave ”is the purest and most pleasantly harmonious combination of words in the English language. There’s something to be said for it, but one wonders if writer-director Richard Kelly offered a challenge to the claim by naming his protagonist Donnie Darko – a compelling and utterly ridiculous name for an ordinary suburban schoolboy that nonetheless sums up his magical and eccentric aura. . His new girlfriend says the name out loud, sliding it like a mint in her mouth, before observing that it makes him look like “some kind of superhero”. “What makes you think I’m not?” He replies, impassive.

Well, what indeed. Kelly’s sci-fi tinged story of teenage isolation came out six months before Spider-Man, the film that kicked off the revival of the now-devouring superhero film, and both have more in common than you might initially think: Both are stories of a clumsy teenager who accepts what appear to be otherworldly abilities and takes responsibility for the world around him. For the brave Peter Parker, this means standard feats of derring-do and defeating evil; for downcast Donnie Darko, it means ending and altering the very timeline he exists in, ultimately dying so others can live. As the superhero origin stories go on, there isn’t a lot of franchise potential – the legend of Donnie begins and ends with one fell swoop. But he has a strange, enduring power: Was the stories of many comic book heroes so lofty, haunting, and finished.

A 20th anniversary is odd for Donnie Darko to celebrate: if a film is to be granted eternal adolescence, it is Kelly’s very ambitious first feature film. I first saw him when I was around 19, which was about ideal. The film, with its mix of ordinary high school angst and trippy, whoa-what-was-THAT philosophy was pretty much designed to be shared among teens as a secret – a work that both includes their take on the movie. world and proposes to expand that in a cosmic and puzzling way.

This quality was reinforced by the slow and slow combustion of its output. After mixed reviews when it premiered at Sundance, the film went unclaimed by a distributor for several months. Released in a handful of US theaters in October 2001 – in the dark shadow of 9/11, particularly unfortunate timing given its incident inciting aerial misfortune – the film didn’t exactly find an audience, earning only one half a million dollars at the end. of its race.

Its cult, instead, grew out of home video and DVD, which in turn sparked a new lease of life in cinemas: by the time it arrived in the UK, a year after its release in the States -Unis, the film had enough cachet to become an independent film. box office success and object of hipster fascination. (There was a street art exhibit dedicated to her at the Shoreditch Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes bar, which is pretty much the most early 2000s fashion measure you could ask for.) Key Has Been Cut – a dismal cover of Tears For The Mad World of Fears by singer-songwriter Gary Jules and film composer Michael Andrews – hit the UK Christmas Top 40 the following year, his status as a pop phenomenon was assured. A director’s release the following year kept the word-of-mouth cycle going for a film that was on every other college student’s favorite list by then.

It all feels like a very long time ago: revisiting the movie in my late 30s, I was worried that Donnie Darko, himself a Reagan-era play, would now play as a quaint time capsule of my millennial youth. , reflecting my own time. ideas about time, space and society. Still, with a few visual effects that have always been ingenious, the film stands up beautifully. A layer of longing that has lasted for decades only reinforces her overwhelming sense of sadness, her sorrow for diminished and misunderstood lives by the superficially functional American suburb represented by the evil motivational speaker Patrick Swayze and the Christian-fundamentalist harpy of Beth. Grant.

These are caricatures, of course: the film reserves its nuance for its outcasts. As sensitively written by Kelly and delightfully performed by Jake Gyllenhaal – then lanky and goth-eyed, at odds with his lanky body, eons from the dream boat he had become – the reluctant, heavily medicated Donnie now plays as a premonitory touchstone for a next generation of mental health awareness. In the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy, American independent cinema was inundated with tortured young men on the verge of something terrible, but Donnie’s sense of separation from others is neither romanticized nor made unduly grim: The Solemnly Touching Adventures of the film in time travel offer a kind of symbolic validation for anyone who sees, feels or experiences the world differently from everyone around them. It’s not exactly a heartwarming expression of solidarity – as you choose to see, the film is bittersweet at best, and tragically plunging at worst – but it does feel honest and inclusive in its desperation. Would most teen drama, to say nothing of most superhero movies, have weighed on them that much.

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